Random Thoughts Technology

Some Quick Thoughts on Apple News

I know the tech world is currently busy covering Apple News+, but I’ve recently just been trying out plain old Apple News recently for the first time. Here’s some random thoughts.

  • I actually think it’s a decently designed app. It does nothing outstanding, but it displays stories and their texts simply. It does its job.
  • The main thing I’m not a fan of design wise is the time when posted text (e.g. ‘4h ago’, see screenshot) below each article. As long as it was published today I don’t care about the time published. And I don’t like how it’s placed at the bottom of each story block, as it can look a little stranded if the headline is a short one.
  • You really need to train it. If News was made by Google or Amazon you’d launch the app for the first time and it would would be eerily good at showing you stories of interest. But this is Apple so it takes some time to set it up to get good results. You have to be very proactive in blocking websites and disliking certain stories.
  • The typeface on the Mac version is too small and I don’t think there’s a way to enlarge it.
  • I never visit the human curated ‘Spotlight’ section. Nothing has ever caught my eye in there.
  • Overall I’ve found a lot of the negatives aren’t to do with Apple News itself and are instead due to the websites that are within it. Online journalism now is too short, too wrong and too clickbaity. And there just isn’t enough good articles published each to day to fill out the ‘columns’ of the Apple News app. But maybe the new higher-quality paid stuff in News+ will help with that problem.

The New York Times Gets It

I don’t read much news, but fairly often one of my RSS reads will link to an article from a newspaper. And this has become a little anoying in recent years as many newspapers now put their online content behind a paywall due to their dwindling physical paper circulation. Which I understand. But as someone who reads just a couple of articles a month from each publication it makes little finanical sense for me to take out an expensive, recurring subscription. The Guardian costs £13/mo (after a 14 day free trial). The Wall Street Journal costs £12/mo for the first twelve months and then an eye-watering £35/mo thereafter. And to sign up you have to fill out the usual endless amount of online forms and give them all manner of data.

Compare that to the New York Times.
– £3.40/mo for the first year.
– £6.80/mo thereafter.
– Buy with Apple Pay and unlock the desired article in seconds.
– Cancel at any time.

(The Washington Post also offers Apple Pay and costs £4.50/mo. A good value.)

Update: 18th September 2019
I forgot to consider ease-of-cancellation. After a few months of my subscription to the New York Times I just didn’t get enough value out of it, so decided to cancel. Well it turns out they want you to chat online to a member of staff to cancel! And every time I tried to apparently they were ‘offline’. But luckily I paid via PayPal so I just deleted the NYTimes as a ‘pre-approved’ payment and it cancelled itself. Something to be aware of, folks.


My Newspaper Dream

Every 6 months or so I go to my local newsagents and buy every newspaper on the shelf, hoping to find a news companion I can maybe subscribe to.

I sit on my floor and spread them all out and spend the afternoon reading them but I never really like any.

I was going to now go into great detail as to why. How I think the Daily Mail is pretty much the worst publication to ever be put to print in the UK. (It’s not just bad, it’s poisenous in fact.) I was going to talk about how The Times is just straight up boring and how the Guardian go overboard with sport articles sometimes, publishing stuff that seems forced just to beef up their sports section.

But anyway, all you need to know is none of them fit. I don’t mind the Guardian and the Independent, but would I want to spend £300 a year reading one? No. Because I only read around 1 in every 15 articles in the paper and that ratio isn’t good enough.

So, why can’t I subscribe to the individual journalists I like? I want someone to create a writers network website. The fantasty is that all news and magazine publishers allow their staffs work to appear on this network, for a price. I can then subscribe to a journalist for a certain amount per month or per article/photo.

It won’t just be a website, of course. They’ll be an iPhone and iPad app that produces your custom ‘newspaper’, a bit like Flipboard does with your social networks. There could even be a Magcloud like service that would print and send your ‘paper/magazine’ every month to your door. A reccomendation engine would accompany all this. ‘Hey, you like Kevin McCarra of the Guardian so why not subscribe to Sam Wallace of the Independent? Start your free 2 week trial of this writers articles now!’

This is my dream.

December 17, 2011:
Journalisted offers some of the functionality I yearn for.

August 15, 2013:
The Guardian have implemented a ‘Follow by email’ feature.

January 7, 2014: It seems the Guardian have removed the ‘Follow by email’ feature.